Miss Giulia Bankov • April 24, 2019
Giulia is a graduate medical student at the University of Glasgow. She previously studied Neuroscience at King's College London and completed her Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology degree at the University of Amsterdam
The Verbal Reasoning section of the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is largely one of the most feared and dreaded subtests of the exam for many medical school candidates. The aim of Verbal Reasoning is to test your ability to read comprehensively an unknown block of text and evaluate it. On the basis of the information in the passage of text presented to you, you will be expected to answer whether a statement is true, a statement is false or it cannot be concluded from the information given.
||Number of Questions
The other question type apart from true or false questions is to evaluate all answer options given and decide which one is correct or most appropriate, based on the passage provided. The Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT gives you 21 minutes to answer 44 questions, so even solely from a timing point of view, it is understandable why this is such a feared part of the exam. Not to worry, as we are here to give you our best tips on how to ace the Verbal Reasoning questions. For more information on Verbal Reasoning, view the UCAT Consortium’s official website.
Practice reading unknown texts
The idea behind the Verbal Reasoning portion of the exam is that you will be presented with an obscure text that you will most likely have never seen before in order to evaluate your ability to comprehend unfamiliar information. The best thing you can do to prepare is to practice reading such blocks of text and make sure you understand them well enough to give a brief one or two sentence summary of them.
Try practicing with a friend or a family member - pick up a textbook or a paper that you’ve not read before, read through a 300-word block of text and try to summarise it back. The more you do this, the better and faster you will become at reading and comprehending complicated and obscure pieces of information, which is an essential skill to have for the Verbal Reasoning part of the UCAT.
Practice speed reading
Once you have gotten comfortable with reading, comprehending and summarising unfamiliar texts, the next thing on your mind should immediately be timing. With 44 questions to be answered in 21 minutes, you will be very time-pressured if you haven’t trained to speedread. While attention to detail matters a lot in Verbal Reasoning, speed is also very important. Start skimming through unfamiliar texts and see how much of the information you retain and get right - with time, this amount will increase and you will feel more comfortable achieving the same result by spending a lot less time on a text!
Read the question first
By reading what the question asks of you first and then returning back to reading the passage, you will be able to save some precious minutes, which would be of the essence for tackling successfully the Verbal Reasoning subtest. Doing this will clarify what it is you’re looking for and when you read the text, you will be able to identify that information more quickly and accurately.
Furthermore, since usually there are multiple but separate questions addressing the same piece of text, once you have answered the first question, you will only have to go back to relevant passages and skim through to answer the following questions. You can master this strategy with UCAT practice questions
and Verbal Reasoning tests
, which you can find in our UCAT Courses.
Don’t forget about “Can’t Tell”
When evaluating whether a statement is true or false based on the text, there is always a third option - “Can’t Tell”. What this answer option means is that you should not be able to deduce whether the statement is correct or not based on all the information provided. You are not expected to use your own judgment or personal opinion. You might be provided with a statement that you know for a fact is correct, but that has not been explicitly mentioned in the passage.
Choosing “True” would be falling into that trap. So get comfortable with scanning the passage for the information required, and if it is clear that you cannot conclude that statement from the passage, don’t be afraid to answer “Can’t tell” - it is likely going to be the correct answer!
Guessing is okay, too - but do it smartly
At the end of the day, don’t forget that all questions carry the same weight and all are scored the same. Also, there is no negative marking. All strategies suggested above will make sure to bring down the number of questions you will have to guess at the exam, but there is always a chance that you won’t have time for a few questions or some will be a lot harder than others.
Guessing a few won’t harm your score, so if a question is clearly setting you back, flag it and move on. Coming back to it at the end, if you still have no idea what the correct answer is, just simply guess. However, you will likely have spent some time thinking about it and you will have eliminated some options as incorrect. This will increase your chance of guessing correctly, so keep it in mind - and don’t guess blindly!
We hope this was a useful guide to the Verbal Reasoning section
of the UCAT and you feel more comfortable tackling it. Don’t forget that if you have any questions about your UCAT preparation or applying to medical schools in general, you can send us an email at hello@theMSAG.com